It is hard to believe that it was only seven years ago I witnessed a CNC router in action for the very first time. I was fascinated and simply had to have one! Although I had been in the creative end of the three dimensional sign business for most of my life I didn't really know what I would do with one - but I just knew it could do fantastic stuff.

Through extensive research I quickly found out that with the relative simplicity of EnRoute, CNC routers were capable of just about anything imaginable. This journal will chronicle that journey to date and continue each week with two or three entries as we continue to explore just what is possible with this wonderful software... -dan

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another step by step

At the beginning of this year I challenged all my sign making friends, around the world to create one project this year that would take them in the direction they wanted to go in their businesses. The project would be something for their showroom, something fun. It could be of any scale, of any material, but it had to push their limits and build their skills. 

For myself I upped the ante significantly. My challenge to me was to do one piece each month. We are now more than half way through the tenth month of the year. I started with the sextant piece for my library. Other projects included the submarine, plane, streetcar, hot rod, fish boat, large wrench, the rooster, and bear signs. Out in the shop the newest personal project, the flying saucer sign is in progress. Each piece is done a bit at a time as I find minutes through each day. My CHALLENGE 2010 projects have already appeared in magazines, won awards, and served as lessons in workshops. They have been proudly displayed in my office, showroom and at trade shows. They have brought us more imaginative work. The projects have been a great way to learn new skills and stretch our selves creatively. The effort has been well worth it by far.

Over the weekend we displayed our work in a local trade show. As I stood there my mind of course started to wander. I thought of an upcoming EnRoute workshop to take place in Denver November 4,6 - only ten days away. I am tasked with leading a couple of the lessons to show people the creative possibilities within the program. As I thought about it I decided I would design and build a project I could show there and also here on the blog. It would kill two birds with one stone and I'd also be able to stay ahead of the game in my personal challenge. 

In the next hour I talked about a sign with a fellow who owned a contracting business. He wanted to know if we could do a sign with an excavator on it. He didn't make a final decision on his sign but I decided such a piece would be my next sample I would create - largely using EnRoute and our CNC router of course. When he was gone I broke out my sketchbook and started scribbling. The conversation inspired a good base for the sign and I grabbed the idea as a starting point. The excavator perched on top of a pile of dirt provided a pleasing composition. On the way home from the show I saw an excavator and took note that the cab was on the opposite side than I had remembered. When I started drawing the file on my laptop computer the next day at the show I would flip it around.

I took a picture of the rough sketch with my digital camera and then imported the file into Photoshop to do the rendering. While my focus was on people walking by our booth I snuck in a few minutes here and there to whip up a concept for the sign in about an hour or so. I also did three other sign concepts and talked to hundreds of potential customers during that long day.

In the next days I'll document the creation process from start to finish. I'll show how we create this seemingly complex file in EnRoute, then route it from 30 lb Precision Board on our router, glue it up and paint it. For those who want to go through a step by step process in person I'd advise you to book now for the EnRoute workshop in Denver. I hear there are still seats available. Otherwise...  stay tuned...